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Positive start for Australia on first day of third match

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-31

After a six-hour delay due to rain, Australia made a confident start to the first day of the third match of the Ashes series on Thursday against England at Edgbaston.

AFP - Shane Watson marked his maiden Test as an opener by batting through to the rain-affected close of the first day of the third match of the Ashes series here at Edgbaston on Thursday.

Watson's unbeaten 62 was the cornerstone of Australia's 126 for one at stumps. Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who won his first toss of the series, after rain had left the outfield unplayable before tea, was 17 not out.

Ponting now needed just eight more runs to surpass Allan Border as Australia's leading scorer in Tests and go third in the all-time list.

All-rounder Watson and Simon Katich put on 85 for the first wicket before off-spinner Graeme Swann struck with his sixth ball to have the left-hander lbw for 46.

Injury-plagued Watson, appearing in only his ninth Test since making his debut in 2005 and first since November, got his chance after Australia dropped opener Phillip Hughes.

And he responded with only the second fifty of his Test career, reaching the landmark in 89 balls, including eight fours.

Left-hander Hughes was omitted after scoring just 57 runs in the first two Tests of this series and repeatedly struggling against the short ball.

Watson's inclusion, with Australia 1-0 down in the five-match series after their 115-run second Test loss at Lord's, represented something of a gamble as he'd never before batted higher than No 6 in a Test.

Australia though were without an additional specialist opener in their 16-man squad.

And Watson, whose inclusion bolstered their seam attack, did score 84 and 50 as an opener in last weekend's tour match against Northamptonshire.

The 28-year-old Queenslander belied a low Test average of 19.76 to off-drive James Anderson in textbook fashion for four.

Watson did almost play on to Andrew Flintoff, the bowling star of England's victory at Lord's, on 16.

But he was otherwise assured, off-driving first change Graham Onions's second ball for four and pulling his fourth to the boundary as well.

Watson, who has played English county cricket for Hampshire, found Onions's bowling much to his liking, forcefully driving the Durham quick down the ground and next ball pulling him for another boundary.

Australia's openers posted a fifty partnership in 72 balls and they'd scored 16 boundaries between them in 18 overs before Swann came on to end the diet of all right-arm pace bowling.

Swann gave England a much needed breakthrough when Katich, who faced 46 balls with nine fours, missed with an attempted pull.

Katich's exit brought in Ponting who took Australia past a hundred with a punched four through the covers off Anderson.

Australia were forced into a late change after wicket-keeper Brad Haddin sustained a suspected broken fourth finger of his left hand in the warm-up.

He was replaced by 30-year-old South Australia keeper Graham Manou, who was making his Test debut.

Australia had to seek permission from England captain Andrew Strauss to alter their side after including Haddin in the team named at the toss.

Four years ago at Edgbaston, Australia saw fast bowler Glenn McGrath pull out after injuring himself his ankle in the warm-up in a Test that England eventually won by just two runs.

Hughes caused consternation in the Australia camp earlier in the day by revealing he'd been dropped before the toss on his personal Twitter page.

Date created : 2009-07-30

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